What to Do With Gifts We Don't Like

Here's a great question from one of my blog readers:

"I read your blog post about the woman going through a divorce and trying to let go of old photos of her spouse. I noticed that she had the same fear that I did, when I had the same problem. I was afraid that if I let go of some of the photos of him, my child would later grow up and ask why I didn't have any. You helped me let go of that fear, and just chose the ones that made me joyful. Those I can show to my son with delight."

"Here's my question: how does this apply to presents that friends and family give you that they expect to see in your home? I know that several friends/family will be offended if I don't hang the artwork they gave me, or use the placemats...etc. My fear is replayed in my mind...they come into my house, see I don't have it, ask where it is...and I say, "Uh...well..." and they're offended. I'm trying to translate the solution you gave for the photos into this situation. Please help!"

When we give a gift, we are taking a chance the person will like it. They might not. Usually if the person doesn't care for it, we don't hear about it. I can say that because a lot of my clients have gifts in their homes that they don't like. They are obviously unhappy about it, but they can't let the gifts go because they are worried about how the gift giver would react. Sometimes the gifts are out in the open. But often they've been hiding the gifts in the closet, under the bed, amidst a pile of things in the garage, in the back of a drawer, or in a storage locker. Imagine if you bought something for someone and you knew they disliked it so much, but they were afraid to offend you by letting it go. You might feel sad or disappointed that they didn't like it, but you wouldn't want them to have to hang onto it and suffer.

Your first priority in your home is your comfort and happiness. You are not obliged to anyone but yourself. If you keep things in your home that you dislike, even though you've hidden them from your view, they will have some kind of debilitating effect on you. If you hang a painting on your wall that you would not have chosen to buy in an art gallery, that you don't like to look at, you'll suffer. Plus you'll be hurting the relationship you have with the person who gave you this thing because you'll feel resentment for this situation they put you in every time you see the gift. That does a disservice to you and the relationship.

This is a good opportunity for you to consider what makes you feel joyful and what doesn't. As far as the gifts in your home that you don't want to use, you can either contact the person and say how you are feeling, and ask them if you should return it to them, or donate it. Or you could donate it, and if they happen to notice it's not there and they ask about it, you can say that it wasn't for you and that you donated it. If in either case they are offended, you can talk with them about it. When we are honest with kindness, it brings the opportunity for greater connection.